For all the people who get up in the morning, don their bike helmets and pack an extra shirt in their backpacks to go to work in Palo Alto, Thursday morning they got a reward.
Volunteers hosted "energizer stations" at strategic spots around town, replete with oranges, Hobee's coffeecake, bagels, coffee and plenty of literature on how to cycle safely in traffic.
"Thanks for biking to work!" a volunteer called out to cyclists near the California Avenue underpass, next to the Caltrain station.
Whether bicycle commuters believe they're helping the environment, getting exercise or saving money, they turned out in droves for the 18th annual event, which took place in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Kitty Lee stopped by the California Avenue station for a bit of refreshment and admitted to cycling for another reason.
"You feel guilty if you don't," she said, only half-joking.
Lee works for Stanford University, where there are strong incentives for people who don't drive themselves to the office.
Lee, a Palo Alto resident, said the commute times by car and bike are about the same for her 20 to 30 minutes. She could get to campus quicker by car, depending on traffic. But then she'd have to find parking and walk or catch the Marguerite shuttle to her building on the sprawling campus.
She's been commuting by bike for about a year. The key lesson she's learned is to map out a safe route, which provides a greater incentive to continue biking, she said.
The California Avenue energizer station is the busiest in Palo Alto, according to volunteer David Coale, who was counting the cyclists. It's at the intersection of the California Avenue underpass, the train station and Park Boulevard. This year, 682 people biked past between 6:30 and 9 a.m. more than last year, he said.
He surmised that the good weather helped the turnout.
"We get a little bit of everyone," he said, gesturing to a woman in a chiffon skirt and heels, straddling her bike amid a sea of spandex-clad riders.
It was Coale's fifth year of volunteering.
"It's fun to give a little bit of something as a benefit," Coale said, as another handful of riders cycled past.
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